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Departments : The Winning Edge

Patrol Rifle as Close Quarters Weapon

If you haven't trained to engage a suspect at less than 100 yards with your patrol rifle, start now.

February 05, 2010  |  by Michael T. Rayburn - Also by this author

Close-Quarters Capabilities

To understand the weapon's true capabilities in close quarters, you need to temporarily remove any fancy sighting systems from the firearm. Dot this, laser that, halo whatever; get rid of all of them. The iron sights the rifle came with are just fine. If you've found that a scope is beneficial-perhaps because you live in a sparsely populated area-great. But if you're like most of us, you're not going to have the room or the backstop to justify its limited use, or spending the money on scopes for all of your patrol rifles.

In close quarters, you don't even need your sights. At 25 yards and closer, you can easily place quick and effective rounds into the center mass area of a target. In my CQB Patrol Rifle class, the students routinely place quick, effective rounds into an eight-inch paper plate, and they do that while shooting and moving.

Think about this for just a second. When you're going down that hallway, clearing the building, looking for the bad guy, are you looking at your rifle, or are you looking down the hallway in case the bad guy jumps out at you? At that high-risk traffic stop, are you looking through the sights of your rifle with one eye closed, or are both of your eyes open in case someone in the car decides that he'd rather go down fighting than go back to jail?

In both cases, both of your eyes will be open. If you close one eye to get some type of traditional sight picture-with whatever sighting system you use-you limit your field of view.

To illustrate this, take your safe and empty patrol rifle and bring it up to your shoulder in the "traditional manner" that most of us have been taught. Get that "perfect cheek weld" to the buttstock of the firearm, and close one eye to align your sights. Keeping your eye closed and looking straight ahead, determine the parameters of your peripheral view. In layman's terms, how much of the surrounding area can you see without moving your eye?

Now bring the rifle's buttstock up to your shoulder, but this time don't "weld" your cheek to the buttstock. Keep your head square, and lower your chin. Lowering your chin is something we do naturally and instinctively under stress, so why not train that way? Keep both of your eyes open and look forward, as if you were looking down that hallway for the bad guy to pop out.

Also, square your body straight ahead to the target area. We don't blade our bodies under stress, and who clears a hallway in a building with their body bladed anyway? You'll notice that when you square your body, the end of the rifle's barrel will naturally align with the centerline of your body, so wherever you turn, or pivot to, your rifle will automatically point straight ahead on target. Now check out your peripheral vision. Has it greatly improved? Does it seem more natural, and realistic, to you?

Developing Realistic Training

That's what this is all about, to train the way we fight. When some departments made the switch from shotguns to patrol rifles, they followed the same reasoning they used for their shotgun training, and that was to do very limited training. When asked, one department stated their rifle training mirrored their shotgun training, five rounds once a year.

Other departments are a little more progressive, but most don't require their officers to shoot while moving. One department stated that if their officers don't "plant their feet" before firing, they are reprimanded on the range. Considering the dynamics of an actual shooting, that really doesn't make a whole lot of sense. Most officer-involved shootings, even with a patrol rifle, involve both of the parties moving. If that's the case, then again we need to train the way we fight.

When developing a patrol rifle training program, or for that matter any firearms training program, our training needs to reflect what actually occurs out on the street in the real world. We need to think outside of the box of that square range. If we move during a shooting incident, then we must train our officers to shoot while moving. If we deploy the patrol rifle in close quarters situations inside of a building, then we must teach sternum shooting and other close-quarter tactics. If we deploy the patrol rifle at traffic stops, then we must teach officers how to shoot in and around their vehicles, even through their vehicles. If we want officers to use cover as much as possible, then we must teach them how to use cover effectively when deploying the patrol rifle.

Should we train for that 100-yard shot? Yes, because it is realistic. But it is just as important to train for the close quarters situations where the patrol rifle is most often deployed. That 300-yard shot is nice to make on the range, but it isn't likely to be used in real life. So keep it real and train the way you fight.

Michael T. Rayburn has more than 30 years of experience in law enforcement and is the author of four books. He is an adjunct instructor for Smith & Wesson and is the owner of Rayburn Law Enforcement Training. He can be reached via [email protected]

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